Economy grows in 1998, global warming pollution doesn't

New federal data show carbon emissions cuts don't mean financial doom.

provided by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy


nergy-related carbon emissions by the United States remained flat in 1998 despite four percent economic growth. This is the first time in nearly a decade that U.S. carbon emissions have not increased. In fact, the latest numbers show that emissions decreased slightly.

According to newly available data from the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, this was the first year since 1991 that U.S. carbon emissions did not rise. Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels were about 1,476 million metric tons of carbon (MTc) in 1998, about 2 MTc (0.15%) less than emissions in 1997 but 138 MTc (10.3%) above emissions in 1990.

"This is good news for the worldwide effort to combat global warming. It indicates that the U.S. economy can grow at a healthy pace without higher energy use or more greenhouse gas pollution, said Howard Geller, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). "Although more analysis is needed to understand the causes for this recent trend, no doubt the growing influence of policies such as appliance efficiency standards and the EPA/DOE Energy Star labeling and promotion programs contributed to these favorable results," Geller noted. Other factors cited included increased conservation and the growth of the Internet.

While encouraging, 1997 emissions were still much higher than 1990 emissions. In contrast to growth in carbon emissions in the United States during the 1990s, emissions have remained flat or even fallen in some Western Europe nations. The United Kingdom recently reported that its greenhouse gas emissions declined 9 percent between 1990 and 1997. This was achieved in spite of the fact that the U.K. already emits less than half as much per capita as the United States.

"The United States will not come close to returning carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels by 2000, the voluntary commitment made by the United States as part of the Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and ratified by the U.S. Senate," added Jennifer Thorne, ACEEE Research Associate.

"Although growth in U.S. carbon emissions has been curtailed at least temporarily, the United States must do more to cut greenhouse gas pollution," said Geller.

ACEEE recommends:

  • Replacing older, dirty coal-fired power plants with cleaner, highly efficient cogeneration systems and natural gas-fired power plants;
  • Increasing the average fuel economy of new passenger vehicles significantly through tougher standards and financial incentives;
  • Restraining growth in energy use in both residential and commercial buildings through new appliance efficiency standards, improved building codes, and other mechanisms.

For further details on these energy and emissions trends, see the ACEEE 1998 carbon emissions score card, and related link

  ACEEE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting both economic prosperity and environmental protection. On worldwide web: